Hasbro Q4 profit ahead of expectations

'Transformers' toy sales up 21% on 2007

NEW YORK -- Toy giant Hasbro Inc. on Monday reported a fourth-quarter profit that exceeded expectations and said full-year 2009 "Transformers" toy sales amounted to $592 million, up more than 20% from the previous "Transformers" movie year in 2007.

In a conference call, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner and his team also said a new "Transformers" TV series is likely to hit the screen "some time this year," with the third film installment of the franchise once again helmed by Michael Bay, set for July 1, 2011.

The current year will be less eventful on the movie front for Hasbro, with the firm providing toys tied to two films it doesn't have a producing hand in -- "Iron Man 2" and "Toy Story 3." But Hasbro still predicts higher revenue and earnings in 2010.

Discussing the future slate of Hasbro movies, management reiterated that 2011 will see the next "Transformers" followed by "Stretch Armstrong" and summer tentpole "Battleship" in 2012.

The sequel to "G.I. Joe" could also be out in 2012, or any time thereafter, as the company is currently developing a script with the new writers, which Hasbro said it is excited about. A "G.I. Joe" TV show is also in the works.

Asked about its movie deal with Universal, which has been extended through 2015, Goldner said the studio is continuing work on "Candyland," "Monopoly" and "Ouija."

Meanwhile, Sony is developing "Risk" for the big screen.

Asked about Discovery Communications TV channel joint venture The Hub, Hasbro said it will announce more programming plans soon. Executives on the conference call Monday didn't follow up on a question if "Sesame Street" could move to The Hub as Hasbro recently signed a long-term deal with the Sesame Workshop.

Hasbro's 2009 results included dilution from the creation of Hasbro Studios and the firm's Hub/TV investments.

But Goldner said the investments will pay off over the long-term as Hasbro continues to push to become a more "branded play company."

Hasbro's fourth-quarter profit of $165.6 million was up from $93.6 million in the year-ago period. Revenue rose 12% to $1.38 billion as the key boys' segment posted a 16% gain.
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